Monday, April 30, 2012

Wholesome oatey choc chip and walnut biscuits

I am always short of work snacks.  Which is not to imply that I'm not taking plenty of them to work.  But I eat them all by midday*.  Couple my all-consuming consumption, and our frugal budget, and I got home from work tonight (Monday night) resolved to bake some sweet, wholesome, filling, slightly nutritious biscuits to fill the gaping few hours in the afternoon that I am without snacks.  These are eating-for-cheap biscuits.  And you can make them between getting home and dinner if you're on top of your game.

  • 1 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 150g butter
  • 1 egg
  • vanilla essence
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1 cup chocolate chips, chopped 

Follow the unwavering template of biscuit making.  Heat the oven to 160 degrees.

Cream the butter, sugars and vanilla with a hand mixer.  Add the egg and beat through.  Add the flour and repeat until mixed.

Now you must turn from your mixer to your trusty wooden spoon.  Add the oats, walnuts and chocolate and stir through.  It takes elbow grease, but it only takes about 30 seconds to combine.

Spoon into balls and place on baking sheet-lined trays.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Cool.

*This mad hunger and incessant eating is easily the big winner of pregnancy thus far.  That and the impending baby, of course.  Oh, but the eating! The shame-free adolescent-style cramming! I'm into it.

Sunday, April 22, 2012


 I do love a food-based holiday.

I guess some might suggest that ANZAC day isn't food based, it's more about honouring those fallen in war and stuff. But since I don't have much time for anything that attempts to glorify war, I prefer to focus on the biscuit element of ANZAC day.

So to make an Australian classic, I turned to another Australian classic. The Woman's Weekly Classic Cookbook. It's old, it's crusty and it's damn reliable.

The most important thing about Anzacs is their syrupy, buttery, oatey goodness. Soooooo tasty.

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 3/4 cup shredded coconut 
  • 125g butter
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 2 teaspoons bicarb soda
  • 2 tablespoons boiling water

Mix the flour, oats, sugar and coconut, leaving a well in the centre.

Melt the butter and golden syrup over a low flame. Add the bicarb to the boiled water and add to the butter mixture.  Then pour into the dry ingredients and mix the lot through.

Spoon into walnut-sized balls and place a fair way apart on greased trays in a 160 degree oven for about 18 minutes.

Cool. Chew. Crunch.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Self-saucing Chocolate Pudding

I am seriously getting a kick out of the turn of the seasons, and snuggling about at home in the evenings with slippers on and comfort food.  Also, given that I'm not drinking at the moment, I have a lot of spare calories to ingest.  This generally means dessert.  Never once a huge dessert eater, I am rocking them with regularity at the moment.

The king of the meals this week was the steak and oven chips with salad Leith put together on Wednesday night, followed by this here chocolate pudding.  Now the Thomas family apparently inherited a pudding recipe with near-magical qualities, the likes of which other puddings can't compare.  This recipe has since been lost, and so ever since we've been meandering through various recipes*.  And this Wednesday, I made one worthy of a post.  Dense, chocolatey, with a fudgy sauce.  Fudginess is just so, so important in a self-saucing pudding.  Wouldn't you agree?  And easy peasy to make.  I know all about those recipes that involve melted chocolate and cooled liquid butter and goodness knows what else.  But as far as I'm concerned, if a recipe for self-saucing pudding isn't unbelievably easy to make, then it's dead to me.  Dead, I tells ya.  I want to know that I will have all the ingredients without having to get off the couch to look.  I want to cook it in the same dish I mix it so there's minimal dishes.  I want to eat it no more than 30 minutes after I think of it.  In those terms, this recipe can deliver...

  • 1 cup self-raising flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa
  • 80 grams butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • splash vanilla essence
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 4 heaped tablespoons cocoa
  • 2 cups boiling water

Heat the oven to 180 degrees C.  Boil the kettle.  Take out your pudding dish.  This may or may not be a much loved hand-me-down Corningware dish from which you ate pudding as a child.

In a heavy casserole dish, mix the flour, sugar and cocoa.  Melt the butter and add this to the dish, with the milk and vanilla.  Stir.

Mix the extra brown sugar and cocoa and sprinkle evenly over the pudding batter.  Pour over two cups of boiling water (pour the water over the back of a spoon so that it doesn't disturb the surface of the pudding too much).

Put in the oven for 30 minutes.  Remove.  Eat**.

*I want you guys to know that I'm talking about over a couple of years here.  Not every night or anything.  We're not that out of control.  Yet.

**Look, I don't want to tell you how to live your life, but if you're wooing someone or generally want to express love for somebody and maybe who knows? also hoping to get some action,... make this pudding for them.  Because, let's face it, anyone who can create an incredible, hot, chocolatey dessert that comes with its own goddam sauce in 30 minutes is looking pretty good. Amirite? Alright.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Hot Cross Buns

This post is late.  But then, my large thesis proposal is finished, and my tummy is full.  You can't win them all.

Still, given that here in the Antipodes it's the beginning of the colder season, I don't much care that Easter is behind us.  I plan to keep making spicy, fruity buns for the next little while.  Like most bread making, this kind of baking is far less work than most people suppose.  The flip-side, however, is you need to be pretty housebound to keep track of the rises and the kneading - you need to start these puppies the night before and they need about 24 hours in total.  Do you have a thesis or some other large manuscript to write too? Snap. Let's bake!

I hadn't made hot cross buns before, but through Leith's brother Ian, I was given the Thomas Family Recipe.  Now the Thomas family are formidable bakers, so it was with great confidence that I knuckled down to these buns.  I did, with some trepidation, alter the recipe slightly (by adding MOAR SPICE AND FRUIT because as you all know by now, I like spice) and while I don't know what the original would have been like, I can tell you that these were scrumptious.

  • 4 1/2 teaspoons of yeast
  • 1 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 4 cups plain flour
  • 3 teaspoons allspice
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1/2 cup sultanas
  • 1/2 cup currants
  • 1/4 cup mixed peel
  • 1/2 cup extra flour and 4 tablespoons water for crosses
  • Golden syrup or treacle and chilli powder to glaze

Before you go to bed, mix 2 1/2 teaspoons of yeast in 1 cup of warm water.  Leave for 10 minutes until it starts to look good and foamy. 

In the meantime, mix 2 cups of the flour with the remaining dry ingredients and fruit in a bowl, and leave a well in the centre.  Add the yeast mixture with the oil to your dry ingredients and stir all together with a wooden spoon.  Cover with plastic wrap and leave out overnight.

The next day, the mixture should have more or less doubled in size.  As Ian most wisely suggested, the longer you leave it the tastier it will become.  At about 2pm my yearning for buns got the better of me and I came back to it.

Mix the remaining 2 teaspoons of yeast with the 1/4 cup warm water, and leave for 10 minutes.  Then add this liquid to the mixture, and the 2 remaining cups of flour to the mixture.  At this point you'll need to tip the whole lot onto a clean surface and knead the mixture thoroughly to incorporate all the flour.  Keep going until the dough is smooth and forms a lovely large ball.  This took me about 20 minutes or a little more.  It is a stiff dough and the kneading is hard work, but this is the only really hard part about the whole process.  Also, this kind of thing can lead to Linda Hamilton arms. So there's an upside.

Heat the oven to 200 degrees and lightly dust with flour a low, rectangular baking tray (like a lamington tray).  Divide your dough into 12 equal parts and roll into balls with your hands.  Place them side by side in the tray.  You want them to nestle up against each other a little, so that when they rise they'll push each other up rather than spreading out.  Cover and leave on top of the heating oven for another 45 minute rise.

When they're ready, mix the extra flour and water to a thick paste and using a piping bag with a narrow nose (or a plastic bag with the corner snipped off), draw your crosses (or customised initials if you happen to know an awesome 6 year old, which I do).

Bake for 20 minutes. 

While they are cooling in the tray, mix a big spoon of golden syrup with a shake of chilli powder (or skip the chilli if you're so inclined) and a little hot water.  Using a brush, generously glaze the tops of the buns while they're still hot. 

Serve the buns with lashings of good butter and cup of tea.  With the tree leaves turning golden and the mornings increasingly crisp, they also make the breakfast of champions.  Mmmmm.  Spending the long weekend studying doesn't have to be quite such a bummer after all.